Sunday, October 18, 2015

After the End - Super Novas and Super PACs

Of the Two Exploding Stars are the
 Easier to Understand
A happy outcome indeed because
we're all made of star dust.
Plus, they don't keep many secrets.

Photo Super NOVA 1987A
When the fusion cycle of an immense star reaches, ironically, its "carbon stage," the next fifteen seconds make, well, all the difference in the world. The thing has been dancing at the cliff's edge in a delicate balance between the massive force of its own gravity and the sheer, raw power of its massive nuclear fusion reaction for millions or billions of years. When the time finally arrives for it to "turn out the lights," it goes with a bang.

On its way "out" it typically implodes, then explodes and finally just collapses into a singularity ["black hole"] where most of the laws governing the rest of the universe are ignominiously "thrown out with the bath water."  During this violent transformation all manner of extremely useful "stuff" has been created, and much of it has been propelled during the explosion to begin its long journey across interstellar space to some destination such as the planet we are presently occupying.

Artist's Painting of 1987A [source - both images]
The "stuff" is a wonderful creation of elemental substances which, it turns out, are exactly the ones making life on Earth possible -- atoms of items such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and the other items we see in the "contents list" of our daily multiple vitamins.

Astrophysics-wise, this should do it.

However, this post begins its own "journey across interstellar space" with the very visible intention of comparing the fate of gigantic Super PAC "trust funds" accumulated by political candidates to the fate of the ending moments of these beautiful stars strewn about the heavens.

Democracy-wise, we should, of course, disabuse ourselves of the "heaven" part right away. Yes, we are once again discussing the enduring consequences of Citizens United.

Glaciers Just Calve Into Ice Burgs and Fall Into the Ocean
There's calving for glaciers, and then there's "calving" for dead Super PACs.

The "always eager" oligarchs controlling the Republicans literally slammed into this election cycle years in advance. The suspiciously obedient national media was commanded to start picking winners based on its rather shaky "football model." Instead of basing estimates for the likelihood of Super Bowl victory on the prowess of sturdy young quarterbacks, the "currency of the day" was to be calibrated almost exclusively on fund raising.

Other metrics which seemed to be relevant -- a candidate's likability, records for success or even simply good looks -- were set aside in an instant. The eight or nine digit totals for the corresponding Super PAC fund raising not only dominated the media coverage, but cast even a glimpse of a candidate's policy or platform proposals. Although theoretically a phase in the campaign process where voters were to be educated and, perhaps, persuaded, all eyes were coarsely directed at fund raising totals.

The message was crystal clear. If you wanted to know what the future held for the country, you must simply take a look at how much which billionaires had "donated" to which candidate. During this phase those who have now become yesterday's political "tragedies" littering the "counting room floor" were all appearing to be smug, unassailable, preordained, natural born, inevitable leaders-in-waiting. Hilariously, each one was constantly attempting to portray his own banal, disinterested visage of "the chosen one" a few days prior to actually "being chosen."

It turns out that "meteoric ascensions" are as difficult to steer as actual meteorites.

Preparing the list of the billionaires' specific "fallen heroes" isn't difficult at all. The Koch candidate, Scott Walker, and the Texas "petrogarch" candidate, Rick Perry, were both "in line" to raise tens of millions until GOP polling numbers revealed that voters wouldn't touch either one with a stick.

The super PAC backing Scott Walker was on pace to raise as much as $40 million by the end of the year and planned a series of as many as 10 advertisements in Iowa to showcase the Wisconsin governor’s record.

But hours before the second advertisement was set to debut today in the pivotal caucus state, Walker abruptly ended his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, largely because he was out of cash.

His withdrawal from the GOP primary ― like that of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry earlier this month ― highlights the limitations of the new strain of megadonor-subsidized presidential politics. Big-money outside groups devoted to the two failed candidates combined to raise more than $43 million through the end of June. But when they began looking for ways to spend the bounty to boost their respective candidates’ flagging poll numbers, their efforts were complicated by tricky election laws, quirky debate qualification rules and the unpredictable rise of Donald Trump as the GOP primary leader. When Walker and Perry bowed out, the big money groups supporting them were left with significant unspent reserves that they’re expected to return to donors.

“It’s sad to me, because I feel Scott Walker is eminently qualified to be president, but it’s healthy because super PACs alone should not keep candidates in the race if they can’t stay in by themselves,” former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer. “There is something democratic about grass-roots, widespread money support. There is something anti-democratic about one person propping up a candidate who can’t make it.”

[Excerpted. Read more: Walker-Perry SuperPACs POLITICO]

While the political catastrophe of Walker and Perry rose to the level of "somewhat news worthy" primarily because their political train wrecks materialized so quickly, there were still more nervous Republican "grey faces" inhabiting the crematory waiting room.

Just get rid of them. Drown the rich ones in their own money,
and sell the others as slaves or corpses.
[image source]
There remain two "possible survivors" in this clutch of losers, but even they are careening toward the depths of "long shot" status. Jeb continues to enjoy the dark loyalty of the billionaire fascists still having looting wet dreams of "W the Second."

Rubio can continue to entertain the fantasy of being the lost boy "suddenly rediscovered" to stand in for the role of "emergency candidate still standing" among the political wreckage when the rest of the field finally immolates itself.

Carson is already on the GOP "endangered species" list because although he is plenty hateful and he may still be able to master the technique of political speech, he will continue to be black. Rand Paul is presently attempting to thread his way through his Kentuckian donors' fury at the transfer of his floundering Senate campaign war chest into his floundering Presidential campaign war chest.

The point here is that most these surviving "doomed campaigns" still have millions of dollars stashed away in their respective Super PAC money bins -- money which will remain quite "viable" even after the original candidate has become history.

If these campaigns were to follow the "super nova" pattern, these Super PAC millions could, conceivably, undergo some sort of atomic transformation which will convert them into something "useful" far away -- politically -- from where they "evaporated" as these campaigns self-destructed. There could be "another wave" of mischief created by the same money as it reappears in yet another form.

Citizen United Lights Up "The Ugly"
No longer even bothering to close the doors
for those "behind closed doors" meetings.

We have to wonder about the "strings" attached to the Super PAC campaign donations these billionaires were coughing up like hair balls a few months ago. There are several possibilities.

1. The cash is simply handed over without any particular conditions. While this may sound suspiciously reckless in terms of "billionaire behavior," this arrangement would provide campaigns with a free hand to spend PAC money to meet political necessities as they arose.

2. The cash might be supplied to the receiving Super PAC in "monthly installments." This arrangement would allow the billionaires to back out of the agreement if poll numbers began to show that a candidate was sliding off the cliff.

3. The cash transfer might require a candidate to undertake exhausting repetitions of "asking" his billionaire sponsor each time his Super PAC ran low on funds. Each desperate "request" would entail making even more promises for "special treatment" after the candidate's successful election.

4. The Super PAC funding could be issued as a "loan guarantee," making it possible for the candidate to borrow the money for his campaign from more traditional sources with repayment being conditional on the campaign's success.

All these issues would have probably been settled in the famous "donor meetings" where billionaires quizzed groups of possible candidates about exactly "what they were selling." Remember, billionaires don't care a whit about abortion, gun control, welfare reform, national health care or any of the other electoral "trigger issues" being masqueraded as "the burning question of the day" on their wholly owned networks.

So, now we are seeing the US electorate dismissing every candidate perceived to possess even the flimsiest connection to what might be considered the "establishment government." The rub surfaces when we also understand that the primary source of funds roaring into these Super PACs is precisely the same source of funds which "established" this now unpopular "establishment government."

The billionaires have made an understandable yet no less grievous mistake.

The first conclusion is that their money is now "locked up" by candidates who are, suddenly, astonishingly unpopular with the Republican base. 

The second conclusion is even more painful. The billionaires' political strategy was based on the premise that sufficient funds in these respective Super PACs would determine the popularity of the candidates they were purchasing.

If there is such a thing as "self-cannibalization" to be found beyond the high walls of asylums for the criminally insane, we are now watching the tea baggers snacking on their own quadriceps. Almost as an aside, they have already ghoulishly gobbled down more than a few of the nastiest banksters and plutocrats. Further, the baggers have not even needed to entice these "monetary monsters" to the financial bear traps through some elaborate scheme -- the carcasses currently trapped in those cold steel jaws rushed in to their demise driven by their own rapacious, insatiable greed.

What Can Happen Next?
Money doesn't like to just "lay dormant."
Really big, billionaire money likes it even less.

Are we to conclude that all these millions are simply "trapped" in Super PACS terminally connected to the "dead stars" which had been selected by the oligarchs? Have these "sparkling dynastic fortunes" simply been castrated by cruel twists of political fate, leaving them impotent and unable to continue to "serve their masters?"

Yes and no.

Believe it or not, there are still a few FEC [Federal Election Commission] rules on the books concerning the use of these Super PAC millions after their original candidates turn into "brown dwarfs." MeanMesa will include two articles describing what limits existing law should theoretically place on the use of these funds. [Please note: The first was published in June, 2015, and the second in November, 2012.]

New York Times
What Happens 
to Surplus Super PAC Money?
[Read the original article NYTIMES]

This is only the second presidential election in which super PACs, which can raise unlimited money as long as they don’t coordinate directly with candidates, will play a role. Jeb Bush’s super PAC, for instance, was expected to raise $100 million, though it now appears it won’t reach that number this month.

Much of whatever the group does raise will no doubt be spent on ads and the like. But if a super PAC finds itself with money left over when a campaign is done, what happens to that excess cash?

Mostly, it’s up to the super PAC. “Super PACs have fairly broad discretion on what they can do with excess funds,” says Robert Kelner, chair of the Election and Political Law Practice Group at the law firm Covington & Burling. They can transfer them to a charitable organization, use them for wind-down expenses like clearing out offices or filing reports, or pay consulting fees. The main thing they can’t use leftover money for is to make contributions to a candidate for federal office.

Depending on state law, though, they may be able to contribute to state-level candidates. So, in theory, a super PAC set up for a candidate’s presidential race could use leftover funds to back that candidate in a state election, or to support other candidates or causes.

Of course, this assumes a super PAC actually has leftover money to spend. “Any time you run a campaign and you leave money in the bank,” says Mr. Kelner, “it’s viewed as poor campaign management,” says Mr. Kelner. In general, super PACs will probably spend most of what they take in.

The possible exception, says Mr. Kelner, would be races in which a super PAC didn’t think its candidate had a real shot. “Where you see a lot of money left over in the super PAC after the candidate drops out, that will probably tell you something about how seriously the super PAC took the race to begin with.”

Does that mean someone could start a super PAC that’s ostensibly focused on one goal (a presidential campaign, for instance) but actually geared toward another (like a state race)? It’s possible — but, says Bob Biersack, a senior fellow at the Center for Responsive Politics who spent many years at the Federal Election Committee, it wouldn’t necessarily make sense. If donors are willing to support a candidate’s presidential campaign at super-PAC levels, they’d presumably be willing to support him or her in other campaigns too — there’s no need to raise money for a sham presidential campaign when you could just raise money for whatever you really wanted to do.

The following article is from 2012. Although this was several years ago, it provides us with the advantage of accurate post election fund raising and spending analysis. As we review these figures, keep in mind that the Koch brothers alone have already announced that they intend to finance their candidate for the 2016 race with around $900 Million.

We have no way of knowing if they actually handed part of this to Scott Walker before he quit the campaign, although he had already been spending heavily in hopes of boosting his poll numbers. Be assured, there are many more of these "marriages made in heaven" between various billionaires and 2016 GOP candidates. [The jury is still out as to whether or not this also extends to a "certain" 2016 Democratic Party candidate...]

Christian Science Monitor
The election is over. 
What happens to all that campaign cash?
An estimated 5.8 billion was spent on the 2012 election. 
Where can candidates spend their leftover money? What is off limits?
By Brandon Ballenger, Contributor 

NOVEMBER 11, 2012

[Read the original article Business CSMONITOR]

The election is over. 

For now, no more attack ads, no more barrage of emails begging for money.

But speaking of cash, what about the money raked in by campaigns that was left unspent?

It’s a little too early to call the grand total of all 2012 election spending, but the Center for Responsive Politics estimates it will be above $5.8 billion, 7 percent higher than 2008. “But outside spending,” the group says, “is a wild card that makes predictions tricky.

Outside spending includes money from corporations, unions, individuals, and other political groups. Investigative journalism site ProPublica’s PAC Track is trying to do the math, and right now says prominent political action committees spent a total of $581 million. That includes “Super PACs,” which because of a 2010 Supreme Court ruling, opened the door for unlimited fundraising and spending.

As for the campaigns, The New York Times breaks it down pretty well, although they pair up the campaigns and their political parties’ spending with their biggest Super PAC supporters. (Super PACs can’t legally coordinate with the campaigns – you won’t hear Obama or Romney say “I approve this message” at the end, but the money is still supporting them.) That means there’s some overlap with the ProPublica numbers, but it gives us a ballpark idea: all told, somewhere above $2 billion between the two major parties. In 2008, Politico said it was unprecedented for that number to be more than $1 billion.

The NYT tallies include data through mid-October and may not match what’s finally reported to the Federal Election Commission, but here’s what we know so far…

OBAMA:    Raised $934.0 Million - Spent $852.9 Million = $134.7 Million
ROMNEY:  Raised $881.8 Million - Spent $752.3 Million = $193.3 Million

So what happens to that monster chunk of change remaining? We asked the Federal Election Commission, an independent agency that regulates campaign finance.

How leftover money can be spent

Here’s what an FEC spokesperson told us:

"Surplus funds may be used in connection with a future election. Funds may be transferred between authorized committees of the same candidate (for example, from a previous campaign committee to a current campaign committee) without limit as long as the committee making the transfer has no “net debts outstanding.” CFR 110.3(c) and 116.2(c)(2). Alternatively, a candidate may redesignate a former campaign committee as the principal campaign committee of his or her current campaign and use the excess funds of the previous campaign in the current campaign.

Pages 51-57 of the FEC’s Campaign Guide for Congressional Candidates and Committees ( discuss the permissible, personal and prohibited uses of campaign funds. Pages 117-121 discuss winding down activity."

This explains a few things. One, debts have to be paid first – and there isn’t always a surplus of funds to cover them. Hillary Clinton is still paying off her $25 million 2008 presidential campaign debt. (But she’s down to just $73,000 as of mid-October.) According to Politico, so are Rudy Giuliani and many 2012 Republican contenders: Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain. (Ron Paul, however, has a $2 million surplus.) Want to look up other candidates’ financial situations? Go crazy at the FEC disclosure page.

Second, the FEC’s statement tells us money can be used for future campaigns. President Obama can’t win a third term – but could he help Hillary Clinton pay off her campaign debt?

Chapter 8 of the FEC campaign guide, Expenditures and Other Uses of Campaign Funds, says money can be donated to charities and state and local candidates. It also allows “unlimited transfers to any national, state or local party committee.” But for national candidates, there’s a limit of $2,000. So that’s out.

Could those funds be passed on to Obama’s VP, Joe Biden? (On Election Day, he joked he might run for president again.) This is possible, but not directly – the money would have to go to the Democratic National Committee, which could spend it to support Biden.

The FEC guide also tells us the money could be refunded to donors, spent on gifts (or “donations of nominal value”) to non-family members, moving expenses after leaving office, home security for officeholders, and work-related “travel expenses for a federal officeholder and his or her accompanying spouse and children,” although a 2007 law puts some restrictions on that. (Interestingly, campaign cash can also be used prior to the election to pay candidates a salary – but not to incumbents, and it’s capped at the lesser of what they made last year or what the office they’re seeking pays.)

Forbidden uses of campaign cash

The big no-no, of course, is personal use of political contributions. Campaign cash can’t be spent on expenses that would exist even if the (former) candidate hadn’t run for office. That’s a broad definition, but the guide spells out some specific examples including college tuition, groceries, funeral expenses, clothes (excluding stuff like campaign T-shirts), mortgage or rent payments, leisure and entertainment, and gym and country club dues.

Just a couple of decades ago, former candidates could spend money on this stuff. says, “Retiring federal lawmakers used to be able to pocket extra cash and use it for cars, vacations, clothes, pet grooming, whatever – but that changed in 1989 with the passage of the Ethics Reform Act.”

Citizens United "Comes Home to Roost"

We probably won't be able to sustain more than one or two more elections conducted in this chaotic environment. 

Vultures eating elephant carcass. Democracy's garbage collectors? [source WIKI]

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